Friday, 4 January 2019


The holidays have been set against a backdrop of Supertramp.  I have re-discovered the band and some of their great stuff on Youtube.  I can report that I have negotiated Christmas and New Year 2018 with the usual fraught difficulty. I tried to have time off, but largely failed. I tried, in vain, to restrict the pressie distribution list. Still too much retail ambushing and manipulation on offer and I was consumed with the annual guilt and worry. The invites for Christmas dinner at Chez Al were rather more difficult to come by than last year. We still ate late though and the guest dogs behaved with unreserved contempt for my kitchen furnishings, managing to quietly masticate their way through some of the overhanging table cloth and a couple of discarded napkins. They wont be sated until they have seats at the table. Rascals.  

There's been no running for months now and New Year was marked by its continuing absence. The two youngsters did manage to attend the Guisborough Woods fell race on the 27th. One with Salomons, the other armed only with road shoes (hardly armed, more saddled). One won. The other was pictured on the deck at the bottom of a muddy incline awkwardly entangled with another unfortunate. A new pair of Salomon Speedcross arrived 2 days later for her, but they arrived too late to save the need for a prewash and subsequent setting for heavy soiling. In fairness she still came back with a bottle of wine, so not all bad.  It might not be long until the 3 of them are all running, with Linds' rocking up at park-runs now and making light work of her previous PB's.  Could make for a canny running team.

It was a late night on Hogmanay. This left me groggy on New Years day morning, a state I have studiously avoided for the past 10 years or so. In the early afternoon, some of the family attempted the Morpeth 11k. Once again an observer, I took my guest up to the top of the main race climb with some pots and pans and we contributed to a small and satisfyingly intrusive incident of noise pollution. It registered point two on the Richter Scale. The British Geological Survey were unimpressed. Its something that certainly needs to be worked on, but it was a hoot, banging all that steel together and shouting as the runners sweated and frothed their way past us. After the prize giving, we managed to get out to the pub for a couple of hours. Heaving as usual. An early bed marked an end to the festive tomfoolery and confirmed, once again, my onward grumpy slide into the world of humbug.

I have been trawling through websites in the last few days for some new bike kit. I have been clocking up around 80 miles a week utilising a local 20 mile circuit and the mildest weather ever for December. Just about all the bikes in the ally-stable are afflicted with a well-overdue need for maintenance. One bike came back from a loan with a stuck seat pin, 2 wheels are buckled on another and last time out I had to stop to check why the chain on the Wilier was jumping. Turns out the several of the teeth on the chain-ring are blunt. Not good for a bike that's only 4 years old and has probably only done about two thousand miles, if that. I am certain modern day components are inferior to the older stuff. However, as I'd like to get back to the Alps this year, I need to get out on something, so some money needs to be spent and some repairs and replacements made.  In the meantime, 'The Loney' is keeping me company on the reading front after my latest sojourn into Sci-Fi with 'Earth Unaware'. Who thought that was a good title!?  I did get Alf Engers biography for Crimbo though, so that'll be the next stop.  Anyway, I'm off the dentist just now. Time for a man in a white coat to check out another set of blunt teeth.

Monday, 12 November 2018


Its been a weekend filled largely with black and white images of men and women and a time gone by. A weekend filled with nostalgia and an intensifying sentimentality. I think they were made of sterner stuff in those days. You had to be. I can say without fear of contradiction that it does make you thankful for what you have and the times we live in, with all our little campaigns and superficiality.

I was in two minds whether to post photographs of several previous generations of my lot on facebook, aware that I was partly basking in the military glow of others, but here's an oldie; my great grandfather. Having been rejected by the Argylls (A&HS) in the mid 80's when I was on the bounce from being made redundant off the North sea rigs, I have sometimes thought that I should have had another try. But the army's commission board's assessment was right, in so far that they didn't think that I was sufficiently committed; and I guess they were right, otherwise I would have had another crack at it.
But why, I hear you ask have I time to engage in all this navel gazing? Its because I've done not a jot of exercise since the Drighlington 10 (see previous entry). I would add that the results from this event have yet to appear anywhere. The organisers need to give themselves a blidy good talking too. This is in spite of repeated texts. Lets face it, I have little else to do but hassle the organiser.
On the home front medical matters are still not fully diagnosed, but I think (and to a degree, hope) that tests will reveal and confirm a tear in my adductor muscle, the one in the abdomen you can feel when you try and do sits ups. I have only myself to blame I fear, trying to force matters and a big gear on the cycling front. However, the lying around giving myself lots of RnR has not made a bit of difference. The bikes gather more dust. The trainers continue to curl up in the corner of the cupboard like stale bread left too long. I am in a sportsmans limbo. I will be demoted back to a white belt at karate soon if I don't get a shifty on.
Once I know the score I can make plans accordingly, whether than be selling the bikes and taking up guitar or chess or booking myself in for some theatre action, you know, the surgical type.  It's frustrating, but we're not quite at the Terry Jacks stage (goodbye to you, my trusted friends...)
I did breach the exercise embargo last month in 'Feldy when I met up with the lads, but other than a rapid 25 miles on two wheels, its been literally pedestrian.  I guess you can't really count an ascent of Schiehallion (the fairy mountain) or long walks in the slate islands (Seil, Easdale and Luing) or even a wandering circumnavigation of Kerrera as sporting triumphs. Power of Ten aren't interested. Neither can you count the short jog to the pub a week ago, although I felt mightily better on my return.  I even had to stand and watch from the sidelines at the recent Amsterdam marathon. I adopted the stoic and sanguine approach.
I'm hoping to get the benefit of all this new fangled medical technology and will soon be on the road to report future sporting malarkey. The season up to July was very promising and I should be grateful for my fitness early in the year; but physical dormancy is a challenge. It also doesn't make for an interesting or busy sporting blog!   

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Drighlington 10

I ordered a new saddle on Monday after doing some research about sit bones, numbness and time trialling. The first principal of 'testing' as its commonly called by the velominati is that unless your comfortable, you can't focus on optimising your ride. The saddle was an ebay special, a seconds, but still fifty quid. Still about half the normal price. Nothing is cheap in the world of cycle racing...never has been. I fitted my new saddle and the latex tubes and Continental tyres to the bike on the Friday and loaded the bike it into the car. The forecast for Saturday was grim for Yorkshire with heavy rain. Predictable.
I arrived at Brotherton Hall, picked up my number and drove the 4 miles to the start. There was hardly anyone else around. It was a filthy day, loads of surface water and quite dark considering it was Saturday afternoon.  I was going to warm up with my rollers, but opted to sit in the car and stare out the window at the rain. There were a couple of magpies sheltering under an umbrella by the side of the road.
I had remembered to bring my rear light this week, but initially it wouldn't work and it took some recharging using the car cigarette lighter socket before it would flash. I reckoned to ride a busy road in Ferrybridge in the pouring rain without good lights would be madness. As I pulled on my velotoze over my shoes, I knew at least my socks and shoes would stay dry for the ride.
I rode up and down the street for a couple of minutes and then it was time to go. I was number 34. I had driven the course before I had parked up. It was very wet, quite busy and full of long drags. As I got into my stride I knew the first half was generally uphill. There were 4 roundabouts to tackle on the route out and this certainly slowed progress. It would be pointless to skid off after travelling 2 hours to this gig. The tyres are devoid of tread, were thin and were pumped up to 80psi. Wet oil on a wet road is an ambush waiting to happen. As the occasional car came by, it threw up bucket loads of roadwater, but I was wet already. It's not so much about being wet on a bike, but its the cold that makes riding miserable. I was a little wary of water filled pot-holes along the course and tried to take a line away from puddles which often drew me into the centre of the lane.
I reached the turn in 14:07. That was a minute down on where I wanted to be, so it meant I would have to bury myself on the return leg. There was no repeat of the previous weeks discomfort on the saddle front. That allowed me to concentrate on the riding. I was back through the various roundabouts before long and glancing at my garmin mounted on the bike stem, I had less than 30 seconds to reach the finish line which I could see out of the wet safety glasses I was wearing. The objective was to crack 26 minutes. The fall-back was to beat 26:11, recorded a fortnight ago in Bishopton. Returning to the Hall with my number, I was pleased to see my time given as 25:59. Phew, that was tight, but mission accomplished...until next year.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Stirling SVTTA 30

We crept out of the Weem B&B on Sunday with the bike in the back. It was quiet and the sky pewter grey but it was dry. Only the ravens cackled in the nearby trees. A red squirrel hung off the bird table.
We made our way over the high road by Amulree through Crieff as the rain started. It was light and sporadic by the time we got to Cambusbarron near Stirling. The event was the Scottish Vets 30 mile time trial. Two laps of an A class road, turning at roundabouts at either end of the strip. Flat as a pancake.
I was off second, at 9:02am. I signed on and spoke to the organisers as to how best to get to the start which was around a mile and a half away. I dug my gear out and realised that I had forgot my rear light. Having a red flashing rear light is usually required in time trials. A good back light that lights up your buttox like a Christmas Tree in Times Square is no bad thing given the questionable quality and attitude of some drivers. After locating a cheap rear light in the boot, I managed to fix it to to the seat post using my wifes hair bobbles. Very Heath Robinson. Some much for aerodynamics, I thought!
I wrestled with the new ‘velotoze’, tight rubber overshoes that keep the water out and apparently are supposed to improve aerodynamics. Twelve quid. Cheap at half the price. I was ready to go. At the start line things were not quite fully formed, with one lad sent running to get a start-sheet and one of the starters advising that we wouldn’t be held up before the start, and then promptly stepping forward to hold me up as I prepared to set off.
With no appearance on the first rider, I was first off. I got into my stride and got up to speed. There was hardly any wind which was a blessing and I was soon turning at the roundabout under the watchful gaze of two marshalls.  The tarmac was mostly smooth with only a couple of patched sections and some bumpy stuff at a road junction. I tried to concentrate on holding my upper body still and focus on delivering as much power to my spindly thights as I could. I was soon passing the start and on the way past for the first time was slightly smug in the fact that I was nearly halfway through my ride and the riders starting had all that pain to come. I had to slow at the second turn for traffic and began the second lap. I was experiencing some discomfort in the under-carriage area with more than a little creeping numbness. Normally on the bike I tend to be quite animated, always off and on the saddle. This discipline of holding the same position for several miles seemed to be affecting circulation, and not in a good way. One or two late starters came past me between 20 and 25 miles and their smooth, powerful and compact style reminded me of what I was trying to achieve. Continuing to push a big gear my discomfort was becoming more pronounced and I was relived to finish after 1hr:21minutes, some way behind Carlos Riise who won in 1hr:07minutes. 
Mrs Mac was in attendance at the finish. I struggled to dismount. My hips were in a bad way. Temporarily incapacitated, it was murder in the car park trying to get my gear off as the rain began again. I was reluctant to sit down when I got back into the hall in case I couldn’t get up again. Surveying the results board, Marg couldn’t quite believe that I was 4th last, casting a surprised eye over the field of crusty old lads who despite their decrepitude, still somehow remembered how to exculpate 24 and 25 miles per hour. I was even beaten by a mustochio who admitted to just getting back from a double hip replacement. That's how I felt. 
We returned to Weem for lunch at Eilean Creagan. Having finished Flowers for Algernon, a short but enjoyable if a little dark, read by Daniel Keyes, I recovered slowly in the Water Mill café in Aberfeldy in the late afternoon after purchasing William Boyds latest novel ‘The Dreams of Bethany Melmoth’ in the book shop upstairs. Previously I really enjoyed 'Any Human Heart' and 'Restless', both superb novels; but conversely, I failed to get through Brazzaville Beach.
A beer in 'the Fountain' later and an early bed saw me up and out on a recovery ride on Monday Morning up toward Glen Lyon past Fortingall.  Was it really the birthplace of Pontius Pilate? Who would make that up?

Friday, 31 August 2018

Dooleys Race of Truth

I drove up early on Sunday morning for the Dooleys 10 mile time trial. The cycle event termed by some in a jingoistic stylee as ‘the race of truth’ . The event had a capacity field of 120 riders. It was over-subscribed and I had initially failed to get in, but a little cajoling of the event organiser by email coupled with a few drop-outs saw me secure number 87. I was off at 10:27am. It was a two and a half hour drive and the roads were empty. It was grey and overcast, but dry. I scanned the car radio for something other than religious programmes, all organs and reverential hushed tones. I settled for a cd by Canada's best kept secret rock band; back to the 80’s: Saga. I rocked past Ecclefechan. The range of toms, snares and cymbals the dashboard has to offer were surprisingly extensive. It began to rain. By the time I got to Bishopton, it was wet. Thankfully the wind wasn’t too bad. 

The community centre car park, race HQ, was quite busy with much to-ing and fro-ing.  There were several riders on their rollers, doing the warming up thing. I got my number and after driving the course, I still had an hour to wait. I sauntered to the coffee van and ordered an Americano.  Wandering back to the car in the cool drizzle, I realised I had entered the land of funny fashions.  Strange Gandalph-esque pointy helmets, solid disc wheels, unfeasibly narrow tyres inflated to an inch of their lives and half of them so pumped up, they should be licenced and require deflating by the bomb squad.  Let’s not mention the one piece skin-suits, so tight that the riders can’t stand up straight without breaking into a Bee Gees number.

As I supped my coffee, I noticed a new arrival. He was regaled in the livery from the Perth United Club. He walked briskly into race HQ and shortly afterwards came out with his number attached…number 86. So he was one minute in front of me. He looked the part; young, lithe, fancy matt black canyon frame, Zipp wheels and all the bells and whistles. He just looked fast. He mounted the bike and took off for his warm up. The start was 2 miles from HQ so after digging out the new time trial bike, I adjusted the saddle and fitted my rear red light (obligatory), I pedalled out to the start.

The course is a 5 mile out and back dual carriageway affair along a flattish stretch between Bishopton and Port Glasgow.  Some early competitors were already finishing. They looked tired and wet. They all looked faster than me. A few riders had punctured in the wet conditions, the rainwater washing fresh sharp gravel onto the road.

I sat behind number 85. He was counted down and set off, winding up a big gear. The starters who comprised two old crusty lads sitting below the railway bridge then turned and shouted ‘number 86’…..’number 86’…..It was a ferris bueller moment……’number 86’ ….anyone... anyone: number 86 wasn’t there. I sat on the top tube astride the bike listening to this and thinking ‘well, I know he’s here; I’ve seen him with his fast wheels and stealth frameset. But there was no sign and after 30 seconds they gave up and began the clarion call….’number 87’….’number 87’. That was me.


I was held up by the starter and readied myself. Then, at 30 seconds to go, number 86 appeared on my shoulder. A staccato conversation with the starters revealed he’d missed his slot. ‘Not my problem’ I mused as the countdown was nearing completion. I gripped the bars and turned on the Garmin with 5 to go…. ‘3,2,1,Go’ . I was off. Cutting left at the roundabout, I adopted the familiar ‘tuck’ position.

The new machine was going well. The time trial handlebars, brake levers and gear levers cost a good few quid to buy and can be fiddly to put on your road bike, so I decided to fish around for a second hand time trial bike, rather than buy the separate components. It is (so far) my only concession to joining the fashionistas in the race of truth, the race to shave seconds off your P.B.s.

My feet were wet after 2 minutes as the spray shot up from the front wheel and the rain continued to fall. I nearly lost control up a short and rough pot-holed drag at Finlaystone, but recovered and punched the pedals hard, rhythmically with little piston thighs. At 3 miles I heard the whoosh, whoosh sound of a disc wheel behind me and Lynsey Curran came past. At 6 miles just after I avoided the broken down Audi on the road, I had a bad case of déjà vu as another rider came past. He looked like number 86. He was number 86. The starters must have relented and let him take number 89’s place, presumably after number 89 failed to appear. Saps.

I buried myself to the end and my thighs were creaking down the slip road where a small gazebo and 3 other marshals sat with clipboards. ‘Not a great spectator sport’ I thought as I caught my breath around the bottom roundabout. My quads were like rock.  I made my way back to the HQ and changed before handing my number in and looking at the results board where they already had all the results up. 26m:11secs. 71st out of 83 starters. An average of 23 mph.  ‘Not too bad, considering’ I thought, but definitely some work to do to match the winning time of Adam Wild in 19:40. Ridiculously fast. 

It was scones and tea back at Glasgow Harbour where I met up with speedy Joe and boyfriend, and then it was home down the A74 in the rain. This weekend, I have a 30 miler at Stirling. I’ve made more concessions dropping in ‘on-line’ to buy some new go faster tyres and latex tubes, a smooth black stealth helmet, without the spikey bit, mind, and some velotoze, which are tight overshoes. That should buy me a few more seconds!  Likely to leave me bankrupt at this rate. Bankrupt and exhausted....!!

Monday, 20 August 2018

Brambling at Pease Bay

Friday arrived and that heralded the big ride weekend to North Berwick (and back). Its a trip of around 105 miles. Not to be sniffed at! I had been watching the forecast with more than a passing interest over the past few days. It was forecast dry and breezy on the Friday, but the Sunday was looking bleak. However, the forecast can be well off sometimes, so as we kicked off from Lidls where I shoved 6 cereal bars into my already swollen rear pockets, I focused on matters in hand. We cracked on at high speed up through Warkworth to Bamburgh. My Garmin announced each 5 mile split and it occurred to me we were motoring on. Steve, my partner in crime, had taken receipt of a new Willier road bike the previous week. His sorry back catalogue of broken bikes and crippled components was, hopefully, a thing of the past. On the way up we took a couple of wrong turns, one of which threw us back onto the A1. We spent 3 miles at 22 mph riding hard up the hard shoulder being kissed by Coaches and goosed by HGV's before the side road at Scremerston beckoned. That marked the 50 mile mark and we stopped for soup and cake.
The café is next to the Go Outdoors place and is warm, reasonably priced and the waiting staff worked attentively. We cracked on after the half hour stop and passed through Ayton. A small dear ran across the road in front of us, chased out of the nearby field by a combine.  Hitting it at speed on a downhill could have been nasty. After Coldingham we started the long climb to the wind farm. It began to feel like a cross-headwind and progress definitely waned.  The chat became sporadic. Pease Bay came and on the short climb out from the caravan park, I found myself unable to resist the plump brambles at the side of the road. After a veritable fruitfest, I wiped the purple slaver off my chops and we cracked on, stopping again at Dunbar for a juice stop and it was a touch over 6 hours for the 105 miles into North Berwick.
On Saturday, we elected to ride into Edinburgh along the coastal route rather than watch the footie with the other 2 lads who had driven up.  Steve was feeling the previous nights beer and we toiled into a stiff headwind all the way to Portie, where we stopped outside two cafes that were heaving. We sat outside beside the sand. A dog walkers paradise. It was soup and tea again before the speedy wind assisted ride back and another 40 miles in the bag.
We took in the Chinese restaurant in on the 2nd night out in the town.  I slept soundly until I was woken in the early morning by the rain and wind. The wind had turned to a north easterly and it was with a little reluctance that we donned our gear and hit the road at 9ish.  I was saturated after 10 minutes. The clag was down and the snails out on the road en-masse. It must be grim at times being a professional road racer in stage races having to wake up to weather like that and knowing you have 150 kilometres in front of you. The rain never really let up down the road, with us being kept moist in a persistent drizzle and grey sea haar until Seahouses. The handlebar tape gets wet and never dries off and climbing is a little more tricky with the hoods of the brake levers slippy. You never really dry out. By Lesbury there was some unpleasant chaffing to report, so we stopped at the co-op where I invested in some aloe vera lip balm and applied a good dollop to the affected parts. Steve dragged me back the last 10 miles after I lost the will to pedal around Felton. But all in all, a big weeks total for the bike.
Regrettably I picked up my emails on my return and have found out that I didn't manage to get into next Sundays time trial at Erskine, so I'll consider what else is on and see how it shapes up next weekend.   

Monday, 13 August 2018


I'm just back from an early morning 20 miler. Having done me amdramstring in a fortnight ago on the track, I have been back on two wheels and knocked up a couple of 120 mile-weeks. Sweet. But the weather has taken a turn for the worse since I dug out my trusty steeds after cutting my way through the garage. I was nicely sautéed (in wet and warm conditions) after yesterdays solo 40 miler during which I witnessed the pinging and ejection of one of my flat spokes. Sheer speed or simply metal fatigue? More like rider fatigue. I wondered why the wheel had begun to lose it shape. The replacement spokes seem a tad expensive.

When you're a bikie (and you can be a bikie and a runner), there are several 'do's and don'ts' which should be followed; An extensive list of these cycling commandments has apparently been drawn up by the wise lycra clad elders. My attention was drawn to said list by a mate on strava after I loaded up my latest ride.  The link appears to be all good humoured stuff - it can be found here  Apparently going out in the rain when most other sun loving types are huddled away inside their dry warrens stroking their whiskers is Rule 9 and makes me a 'baddass'.  I stopped for a coffee after 20 miles (mind, no cake - note Rule 91. Actually I would have welcomed some fruit cake but I only went out with £2) -  I was also dangerously close to breaking Rule 56 - thankfully the village hall café at Capheaton on a wet Sunday morning were not offering lattes or soya milk refreshments!

I have been trying to introduce a little speed training into the routine. With this in mind, I rode out to Cramlington last Wednesday (late afternoon) and attempted the 10 mile time trial course to see what shape I'm in. The course is a 2 lap affair with a fast start and all on dual carriageway; not much scenery here, but then time triallists spend 90% of their time looking down at the tarmac and trying to keep their upper body rigid. My opinion of the black stuff on this course is that it could be smoother and the manhole covers leave something to be desired. There's always the token numpty some way along the route trying to get his vehicle as close to you as possible. With a perky westerly, I completed the slog in 26:42 which was not too bad, considering. However, my enthusiasm waned late in the day.  I had clearly over done it. I felt over-tired at dinner, had no time for port or cheese and took myself to bed at 9pm collapsing on top of the bed and coming to at 2am. 

In order to give my training some purpose, I have entered a couple of time trials. My season opener at Erskine in a fortnight will need to be in the 25' minute bracket if I am to come away with any dignity. Finding a minute is a tall order though. Aunt Aggie simply grunted when she heard this. Spread-eagled over her Meccano set in the lounge, she said I can draft behind her mobility scooter if needs be.  Its one of the last 10 mile time trials of the season, but I'm a late starter. For good measure I have shoe horned in a 30 miler early in September on a 'rolling' course between Stirling and somewhere ending in -uchty.  I stand a good chance of being last unless I can devise a method of getting some discreet battery power into my down tubes (not a euphemism) and/or getting my hands on half a pound of horse steroids.  Aunt Aggie says she 'knows someone', but I suspect that means she'll come back from the church coffee morning with a handful of peppermints in a brown paper bag. She's already offered me a cocktail of whatever she's taking. I declined the offer. Her 'special mix' might not increase my speed, but I would be guaranteed of having no recollection whatsoever of what I did over the weekend.  

I should easily deliver 200 miles this week as its the annual pilgrimage to North Berwick (round trip on the bikes is 160 miles). I will need to dig out the winter gear (Rule 21) as the evenings are getting cooler and the rain keeps coming.  I'd like to have another crack at the Tour de Trossachs in October, but one thing at a time.